PUBLISHED:May 09, 2014

The Graduation Gala: Students honor their own with Justin Miller Awards, present Class Gift

Duke Law’s 2014 graduates enjoyed a gala celebration in Star Commons on Thursday evening, during which they honored stand-out peers with Justin Miller Awards and presented Dean David F. Levi with their class gift.

Named for an early Law School dean, the Justin Miller Awards honor students who, according to their peers, have demonstrated outstanding citizenship, intellectual curiosity, integrity, and leadership at Duke Law.

Stephanie Laboy and Hilary Campbell shared the award for citizenship.

Laboy, who served as director of the Innocence Project as a 3L, “constantly strives to unite the Duke Law community and work towards the greater purpose of the Innocence Project,” said presenter Shifali Baliga ’14, who also noted Laboy’s sustained commitment to public service through her work in clinics, pro bono legal projects, and summer internships, and her post-graduate position as a prosecutor. “Stephanie carries with her a genuine sense of optimism and a genuine belief that Duke Law students can effect change,” wrote one nominator, commending Laboy’s ability to find common ground among all students engaged with the Innocence Project, one of the largest student organizations at Duke Law. 

Campbell was praised by multiple nominators for her genuine enthusiasm for the Duke Law community, demonstrated through enthusiastic volunteer service as an organizer of such events as the PILF auction and Admitted Students Weekend and on numerous committees, her friendliness, and her baked goods, described by one classmate as “the best baked goods the Law School has ever seen.” They praised her commitment and kindness towards all of her classmates. “She has been a steadfast friend to every member of the class of 2014,” said Shauna Woods in presenting the award. “I can tell you story after story of her going above and beyond for her classmates and community: dropping them off at the airport at 5 a.m., baking for birthdays/finals/student groups, and of course, pumpkin-carving.” (Campbell’s exceptional skills were revealed when, as a 1L, she carved Professor Joseph Blocher’s likeness on a pumpkin.)

Ruben Henriquez, who served as Duke Bar Association president in 2013-2014, received the leadership award. He has “worked tirelessly to strengthen the Duke Law community, spearheading the creation of countless events that have brought students together both as friends and colleagues,” said presenter Nick Atallah.  “His caring, genuine, and dedicated style inspires those he leads to work just as hard, and his enthusiasm for the Law School and the community is contagious.  In my opinion, his efforts are an important factor in why Duke is ranked as having the best quality of life among law schools.” Another nominator wrote that Henriquez “has dedicated his time and emotion to better each and every member of our class, and for that I believe we indebted to him are all.”

Casteel Borsay received the award for integrity, designated for a student with strong principles and character who possesses a true sense of altruism. Borsay, said presenter Autumn Hamit, not only demonstrates those qualities as well as an appreciation for honesty and justice, but “also instills these same qualities in others.” Borsay, said Hamit, “is a very honest and giving person, who takes all her commitments seriously, whether she is serving as a LEAD fellow and trying to support and encourage each and every 1L in her group or whether she is serving people through her work in the AIDS clinic.  Despite her busy schedule serving on both the executive board of Duke Forum for Law & Social Change and the executive board of Moot Court, she still makes time to volunteer with guardian ad litem and to encourage her fellow classmates.”

Taylor Crabtree and Robby Naoufal shared the award for intellectual curiosity.

Crabtree was described by one nominator as “the guy who came to law school because he loves to learn” and who demonstrated an “infectious” attitude towards examining big ideas. His nominators agreed “that our law school experience wouldn’t have been the same without him,” said Celia Glass in presenting the award. “It has been quite common for him to hear something on the radio or read something on the news and send a group of people an email discussing how something we learned about would apply.” Multiple nominators commended Crabtree for his facility as a Duke Law Journal note editor and mentor. He has gone above and beyond in pushing his classmates to improve the quality of their writing both stylistically and substantively,” said Glass.

Naoufal also was described by nominators as someone whose “commitment to legal learning transcends the classroom.” Elyse Lyons, who presented the award, noted that in their nominations, Naoufal’s classmates pointed to his passion for public policy and international relations. “They highlighted his significant efforts to look outside the Law School to deepen his understanding of these issues, including a federal government internship through Duke in D.C. and his authorship of an article on international trade that was recently published in the Georgetown Journal of International Law,” she said.  Citing his membership on the Moot Court Executive Board, students also praised his efforts in preparing them for competitions. He “goes above and beyond to help other board members prepare for competitions bringing ‘a genuine and nuanced appreciation and curiosity to the law’ that benefits all,” Lyons said.

Jehan Saeed, a lawyer from Saudi Arabia, received the LLM award for leadership and community service. “Everyone loves her and she adores everyone,” said classmate Haya Moubaydeen, who presented the award.  Multiple nominators from the LLM and JD classes noted both Saeed’s intellect and her kindness, praising her outreach to all of her classmates in class and out. She served as the vice president of the Student Organization for Legal Issues in the Middle East and North Africa (SOLIMENA), and received particular credit for serving “as a very warm and welcome ambassador between the JDs and LLMs,” making sure to connect students with complementary academic and professional interests and finding multiple occasions for students to socialize and bridge cultural gaps, according to a classmate.

Members of the JD, LLM, and Law and Entrepreneurship LLM classes presented the dean with a  check for $47,713, representing cash and pledges collected towards their class gift to date, with more coming in. In making the presentation, Class gift co-chairs Toni Adeeyo, representing the LLMs, Ruben Henriquez, and Sudeep Paul presented the gift on behalf of fellow co-chairs Hilary Campbell, Nikki Hasselbarth, Stephanie Laboy, David Mikulka, and Kendyl Tash, and committee members Bud Baker, Kristie Beaudoin, Julienne Dewalt, Autumn Hamit, Robby Naoufal, Luke Ricci, and Erin Semler.

Adeeyo, a lawyer trained in the U.K., said that her “great” experience at Duke Law led her to volunteer to co-chair the class gift committee. “In such a short time, Duke Law has exposed me to so much,” she said. “Joining the committee was my way of saying thank you … and to lead my LLM class in doing the same. I know many have had a great year and would like to give others the opportunity to enjoy the Duke law LLM experience by donating to the LLM fund.”